Guest blogger: Amanda Noll, author of I Need My Monster and Hey, That’s MY Monster! and two more upcoming monster books!
In January, I had the unique opportunity to participate as an author at the ALA Midwinter Conference in Seattle, Washington, The number of vendors and professionals was staggering, and the whole experience was tremendous. I was hosted by IPG (Independent Publishers Group), the awesome, hardworking team who distribute my books and the entire Flashlight Press line to bookstores.
Librarians began lining up even before it was time for me to start autographing the free copies, and that line didn’t end until we ran out of books, all 100 of them! I’ve never had people queue up to meet me; I almost felt famous! I credit IPG for creating the buzz: they promoted my signing front and center at the Friday night opening session, and that’s when the excitement started to build. Cynthia and the rest of the IPG team kept the line moving and made sure books were ready for the enthusiastic librarians awaiting them.
It was thrilling to be at an event where peers and professionals knew and loved my books, and were excited to meet me. I connected with many local librarians, and had a chance to greet and speak with librarians from as far as Brazil and Asia, and from all around the world.
The librarians shared countless stories of reading my books to their young library patrons or students, and to their own children at bedtime. They told me they were absolutely thrilled to see the upcoming board book Are You My Monster (July 2019) as well as the upcoming picture book prequel, How I Met My Monster (October 2019). Flashlight Press prepared gorgeous sell sheets, which the librarians eagerly snatched up.
Signing my books at an ALA conference was a defining moment in my journey as an author. I’m grateful that this milestone can now be checked off my bucket list.
Amanda’s monster books are available through IPG, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and your local bookseller.
Today we’re sharing the second post in our new interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
We were fortunate enough to speak with Holly L. Niner, author of the Mom’s Choice Award-winning children’ book, The Day I Ran Way. We loved hearing her perspective on writing, reading, and parenting. The full interview is published below.
MCA: The Day I Ran Away is about a little girl who throws a tantrum, gets banished to her room, and runs away. Why write a children’s book about this? What was your inspiration?
The idea for The Day I Ran Away came from an America’s Funniest Home Video I saw on TV in the early 2000s. A little boy was outside his house with his back pack asking, “how can I run away when I’m not allowed to cross the street?” For me, that captured a dilemma of childhood. You want to be grown up, but you can’t. It captured a feeling that’s not just relegated to children; haven’t we all wished we could run away at some point? But maybe what we really need—as both children and adults—is just a “timeout” from our real or perceived troubles.Holly Niner: Story ideas come from many places. A little snippet of something seems to stick in the “what if” side of my brain and sometimes turns into a story. I try to write those snippets down as they come to me or else the day-to-day of life may push it out of my brain forever. Continue reading “Mom’s Choice Awards Interviews Holly Niner”
A Goodreads review of Being Frank by Suzan Rodgers:
“As a 31 year veteran teaching grades 1-5, I find this book to be a “top-notch” teaching tool full of teachable moments whether used in the classroom or with your own children. To begin with a “picture walk” for interactive read-aloud, the vivid illustrations are quickly engaging making the reader eager to begin the book. There is a rich vocabulary and many literary elements of story that make this book an excellent teaching tool for “mini-lessons” for Readers Workshop such as character analysis, plot (was there a problem/solution),making predictions using context clues, along with making inferences and connections to what they already know. Young readers will then be able to use their meta-cognitive strategies to focus on one of the most difficult literary elements for young readers – author’s purpose. The author used Frank to “teach a lesson”. Upon analyzing what the lesson was, young readers are able to “read between the lines” and add this to their background knowledge. Drawing upon my personal experience as a teacher, young readers would be so eager “to act out” this book for Reader’s Theatre. The author of this book is to be commended for the use of the many literary elements used to teach and enhance literacy for young readers !!! This is a “must-have”!!!”
Hurray! It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!
Today’s choice is as much for parents and teachers as it is for kids!
The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister
Flashlight Press, October 2011, Fiction
Suitable For: ages 5 and up
Themes/Topics: the importance of play, over-scheduling
Opening: “Each morning, while Ernestine ate breakfast and Nanny O’Dear prepared lunch, Ernestine’s father zoomed out to work and called, ‘Live life to the fullest, Ern!’ And each morning Ernestine’s mother zipped out to catch the bus and said, ‘Make every moment count, E!‘”
Brief synopsis: Ernestine’s parents want her to have every experience she can, so they pack her days with sculpting and tuba, yoga and yodeling. It takes Ernestine to show them that one thing she absolutely shouldn’t miss is having time to just play.
Links to resources: What I really should say here is, “No resources! Just go play!” But here are some resources that are also playing: Coloring Page, and for activities, try making a daisy crown (or any kind of outdoorsy crown), or make clouds out of cotton or shaving cream and see what shapes you see in them, or build a fort out of sticks, or blocks, or an empty cardboard box. Use your imagination!
Why I Like This Book: Kids will enjoy Ernestine’s ridiculous schedule, her amusing list of lessons, her teachers’ funny names, the bold bright colors of the pictures, and Ernestine’s inspired solution to her problem. As a grown-up, I appreciate Ernestine’s message that while organized activities arranged and taught by adults have their place, so too does the unstructured time to be a child and simply play.
Click here for Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog post and comments.
I heard those only half-joking words at a summer barbecue a few years ago. It took me a while before I could complete the thought: “And a new, richer one begins.”
What’s nice about Pobble’s Way (Flashlight Press, $16.95) by Simon Van Booy is that on a winter walk a father’s flights of fancy match his daughter’s, and the two play off each other. To him, a leaf is a butterfly raft. To her, a mushroom is a frog umbrella.
And the exercise in imagination extends to a menagerie of woodland animals who, in a furred and feathered Rashomon effect, take turns deciphering what a dropped pink mitten actually is. The options: cotton candy, a mouse house, a wing warmer, a fish coat, or a carrot carrier.
Mr. Van Booy, originally from Wales but a South Fork resident-slash-visitor ever since he earned an M.F.A. at Southampton College, is the author of a recent debut novel and story collections that range from well-received to prize-winning, and the language here is fresh: The duck comes “strutting over to the Something”; the mouse “parked her plump body” on top of it. Or simply fetching: “Dusk had stilled the creaking trees, the branches wore long sleeves of snow. . . .”
There’s comedy, too. A mitten?
“ ‘Never heard of it,’ Mouse muttered.” Rabbits are accused of engaging in gluttony when it comes to carrots? “ ‘Some do, I suppose,’ Bunny said, looking at her paws.”
Wendy Edelson’s illustrations, in watercolor glaze, capture the woods’ profusion of life. She hails, not surprisingly, from Washington’s Bainbridge Island, where the wildlife is indeed wild and the greenery so green it practically throbs.
She includes charming endpapers showing where each of the animals makes its bed. Which is where they retreat to as the story, set after dinner but before bedtime, comes to hint at the eternal parental struggle to get a child to sleep.
And the moon “pulled her white blanket across the woods.”
My Side of the Car
At last, a kids’ book that explores life in the car. It occupies so much of a parent’s time, energy, and worry — from negotiating harnessed safety seats worthy of the Space Shuttle to the use of rolling motion as sleep inducement, and what do you do when the kid’s asleep and you have to run an errand? — you’d think they’d have proliferated like so many side-impact air bags.
My Side of the Car (Candlewick Press, $16.99), by Kate Feiffer with deft pencil-and-watercolor illustrations by her father, Jules Feiffer, is about a long-delayed trip to the zoo that gets put off yet again by rain. Complication ensues when little Sadie notices that it’s falling on only the driver’s side of the car. Her dad splashes through puddles and can barely see past the wipers, but out Sadie’s window it’s all garden parties and sunflowers.
(The whimsical book, based on an actual argument the two once had in trying to get to a nature preserve on Martha’s Vineyard, is one of a number of projects the cartoonist had lined up for himself when he holed up in a rental off a quiet Southampton street not long ago.)
Is it merely wishful thinking? To investigate, Sadie steps out of the car and into mud up to her pink stockings. On his side, anyway. She relents.
But one good turn deserves another, and they don’t get far before the sunshine crosses the (psychological?) divide, enabling father and daughter to stride happily into the zoo together. At last.
You won’t find a lovelier children’s book than Claire A. Nivola’s Orani (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $16.99). It tells of a family trip she took close to 60 years ago back to the village on Sardinia where her father grew up. (Her father being the artist Costantino Nivola, who kept a house in Springs for many years.)
Like magpies, she and her Sardinian cousins “flew and settled wherever something was happening” in Orani, a small place of stucco and red tile roofs ringed by mountains. The sheer immediacy of life there renders her experiences indelible. “All I needed to learn and feel and know was down there,” she says from a perch overlooking the village.
She eats fruit and figs right off the tree. Women bake bread communally at night to avoid the heat of day; neighbors make the cheese and honey. She walks the streets and through open windows hears plates being cleared. Among the sights are a three-day wedding celebration, a nearby newborn, and, in a second-floor room open to children, a corpse laid out for a funeral, “his face rigid and white and cold with the unspeakable strangeness of death.”
She finds her return home to crowded New York City, with its height and symmetrical layout, equally strange. The book ends with her wondering what different worlds so many people might have come from. It’s a passage with all the feeling, hope, and generosity of a prayer.
The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister
Linda Ravin Lodding, author
Suzanne Beaky, illustrator
527 Empire Blvd, Brooklyn, NY 11225
The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister is a paean to play, especially for kids. Well-meaning adults end up pressuring children to fulfill busy schedules of performance expectations without realizing that one of the most precious experiences only children will have is free time to play, experiment, imagine, and just be. Ernestine’s busy life should be fully satisfying, with sculpting, water ballet, knitting, tuba lessons, yodeling, karate lessons, and yoga. But something is missing, even though the Buckmeisters hire Nanny O’Dear to help keep Ernestine on schedule. Ernestine begins to look pale and tired. What Ernestine would really like to do is just spend some time playing ball outdoors with Hugo, her neighbor. Ernestine decides to schedule something new for herself. This alarms her parents, who are unable to find her at any of her exhausting, scheduled activities. Finally they find her on top of a big hill, just looking at clouds and inhaling, enjoying the view, with Nanny O’Dear. All adults gradually see the light, and though Ernestine continues to do some of her scheduled activities, sometimes she just plays! The vibrant, colorful illustrations help lift each page of spunky narration. The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister will appeal to overachieving kids of all ages, or 4-8.
Darell Hammond, CEO of KaBOOM!, an organization devoted to saving play for America’s children, wrote the featured HuffPost article below. KaBOOM!’s mission is to create great community playspaces, ideally within walking distance of every child in America. And here’s what Mr. Hammond has to say about our newest book, The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister:
“This book is a joyful and funny reminder to kids and parents alike about the importance and power of play. …Our children will all be happier and healthier if we lessen all those lessons and get out to play.”
Want to know a frightening fact? In neighborhoods without a usable park or playground, the incidence of childhood obesity increases by 29 percent.
As part of our recent Scary Playgrounds! Let’s Find ‘Em and Fix ‘Em contest, my national nonprofit KaBOOM! asked folks across the country to submit photos of rundown, decrepit playgrounds that are in desperate need of fixing up.
By entering, contestants helped further our effort to create a nationwide Map of Play, which charts the location of thousands of playgrounds across the United States. It should be a joyous geography, showing where our children climb and run, laugh and shout, learn and grow.
But alas, scary playgrounds don’t do children much good. Knowing where they are helps us find the Play Deserts — that is, areas where children have no viable outdoor play opportunities within walking distance.
The winners of our Scary Playgrounds! contest are committed to turning these decrepit playgrounds, pictured below, into vibrant community playspaces that encourage healthy, creative, unstructured outdoor play. We at KaBOOM! know it can be done. The slideshow also includes “before” and “after” shots of scary playgrounds that, with the help of community volunteers and funding partners, we have transformed over the course of just one day.
Do you live near a playground that’s overrun by rust, weeds, and disrepair? A playground that seems haunted by the ghosts of the children who once scrambled, screamed, and scurried around there? Add it to our Map of Play by downloading our free mobile app or visiting kaboom.org. We offer construction grants and an online playground project planner so you can get started transforming your own neighborhood playground.